(All eyes on Damon)
Forget counting sheep at night, just watch Invictus. While it’s an important and rare story to tell and the actors and director are reputable, the film is simply boring.
The film is set in the early 90s when Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) is released from prison and takes his first term as President of South Africa. Invictus focuses on Mandela’s goal to unite blacks and whites through rugby and how Springboks captain François Pienaar (Matt Damon) helped transform his team into one worth cheering for.
While the film is backed by big names, both in the film world and real, what’s missing is drama. It’s seems like a logical formula: major historical movement + Clint Eastwood + Freeman and Damon = amazing film. But the story is not told compellingly. While certain scenes aim to illustrate a very important point, they drone too long and excessively reiterate the same thing, without passion. In the scene where Mandela brings in the former president’s security guards to work with his own, there is very little conflict. One of Mandela’s security guards is angry so he walks out, speaks with Mandela who tells him that they need to work together, then he returns and they work together.
However, there are a few scenes that stand out, thanks to Matt Damon. He brings deep conviction and feeling to his role, speaking from a fire within. Even the scenes he says nothing are moving. Like when he visits the Robben Island prison and visit’s Mandela’s former cell. Where most of his scenes focus on the power behind his words, this scene showcases Damon’s ability to guide us through a critical scene with just his silent actions.
This is not to say that Freeman doesn’t deliver, but Mandela, although was very influential and powerful, does speak softly and calmly. It is not Freeman’s fault that his scenes drag on. In fact, Freeman is nearly flawless in his role. It’s how the scene progresses around him that falls short. The dialogue is slow and other characters are not memorable.
The rugby scenes are also unengaging. Perhaps it’s because it isn’t as recognized a sport as football or baseball. Eastwood does not pay enough attention the actual games to bring us into them. Rather than avoid the sport because the audience isn’t as familiar with it, it would have been better drop hints about it throughout and work on drawing the audience in.
This film can at least be praised for its honesty. It doesn’t seek to overdramatize scenes where maybe there was no drama. It also doesn’t seek to dramatize scenes where there likely was drama. It’s clear that Eastwood wanted to create a film that stir emotions, as he has done in the past. However, he fails to make a connection that would keep us invested throughout. C-
Starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. Directed by Clint Eastwood. 113 minutes. PG